The monarch butterfly species may be 250,000 years old, but it's only taken humans about 15 to devastate their whole population. I guess we're just overachievers like that.
A March study showed that genetically modified Roundup-ready crops were responsible for much of the monarchs' decline. Roundup is killing off the milkweed on which the monarchs lay their eggs, and sprawl and recent droughts threaten the milkweed as well. If that weren't enough, monarchs are losing a grip on the 60-square-mile area where they winter in Mexico. From In These Times:
Michoacáns near the state’s 12 butterfly reserves often turn to illegal logging because they have few other sources of income. It can take an illegal logger less than an hour to chop down a pine tree that has been sheltering monarchs for centuries. “From 1986 to 2006, 20 percent of the forest reserves in Michoacán were disturbed,” says Maria Isabel Ramirez, a geographer and conservationist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “More than 60 percent of this loss is tied to illegal extractions.”
Activists are working on both sides of the border to reestablish the monarchs’ once-glorious orangey reign, fighting the spread of Roundup in the U.S. and giving Mexican villagers better options than chopping down monarch habitat.